Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Rebecca Elmhirst is Professor of Human Geography in the School of Applied Sciences. She is a human geographer and political ecologist, with two decades of research and teaching experience on struggles over environmental governance, migration and social justice in the global South. Most of her work is in partnership with scholar-activists in Southeast Asia, with whom she has developed various programmes of research and teaching. These include current projects on the gender dimensions of oil palm investment in Indonesia, links between migrant remittances, livelihoods and resource access, and on living with floods in a mobile Southeast Asia. She is a Principal Investigator in the WEGO (Wellbeing, Ecology and Gender) H2020 MSCA Innovative Training Network on feminist political ecology. Becky is a member of the Centre of Excellence for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics and for Aquatic Environments. She also sits in the Society, Space and Environment research group. Becky has published more than 40 journal articles and chapters, co-edited three books and contributed to popular publications. Her research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy, the European Commission, the Research Council of Norway and European Commission Horizon 2020. 

Approach to teaching

I am a human geographer with an interest in exploring the links between society and the environment. My teaching focuses on the negative and socially uneven impacts of extractive environmental degradation, and on actions that challenge social and ecological injustice in different parts of the world. I lead students through these issues via Political Ecology: a field of inquiry which enables analysis of so-called ‘wicked’ problems and highlights the possibilities of more ethical and  convivial ways of inhabiting the planet.

I use teaching practices that equip students with the tools for thinking differently about some of these problems and possibilities, and the skills to take forward in careers that contribute to sustainable and equitable futures. I teach on first year undergraduate modules ‘Human Geography’ and ‘Global Environmental Issues’, ‘Sustainable Futures’ and ‘Professional Practice’ in the second year, and on ‘Political Ecology:Contested Environments’ in the final year.

I am an advocate of field-based learning, and have built and developed a second year geography field trip to Morocco in collaboration with a community partner in the Atlas Mountains. The fieldtrip offers a transformative opportunity for students and lecturers to reflect on and deepen their classroom learning whilst broadening critical perspectives on society-environment relationships in an unfamiliar setting.


Research interests

I undertake research in the broad field of political ecology. My work is informed by intersectional feminist theory, critical development studies and environmental advocacy-activism around resource extraction, with an empirical focus on the gendered ecological politics of displacement, resettlement and dispossession in forest and flood contexts in Indonesia and Thailand. Current projects include work on the ways that gendered processes of mobility and migrant remittances unsettle linear analyses of dispossession associated with oil palm investment. I am also exploring ways to rethink feminist political ecology through engagement with anti-colonial environmental activisms in Southeast Asia and the practice of feminist political ecology pedagogy and research in diverse activist and professional contexts.

Supervisory Interests

I am currently supervising four PhD students, two of whom are part of a H2020 Marie Curie Sklodowska Innovative Training Network. I am interested in supervising MRes and doctoral projects relating to (feminist) political ecology, and in particular, projects that relate to social and environmental justice, climate and agrarian resource extractivism, decolonial thinking and critical approaches to sustainable development. 

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of London

Award Date: 19 Jan 1997

Master, University of British Columbia

Award Date: 7 Sept 1989

Bachelor, Newcastle University

Award Date: 7 Jul 1987

External positions

Editor, Gender, Technology and Development (Taylor and Francis)


  • G Geography (General)
  • political ecology
  • development studies
  • migration
  • Indonesia
  • Feminisms
  • sustainable development
  • environmental justice
  • extractivism
  • social movements


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